Several fighters of the Turkish-backed militant group Faylaq al-Sham were injured on March 20, when gunmen of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) opened fire on their checkpoint near the town of Armanaz in the northern Idlib countryside.
The pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi said that HTS gunmen provoked Faylaq al-Sham fighters and then opened fire at them for no clear reason.
“HTS gunmen provoked and harassed Faylaq al-Sham personnel by raising their group’s flag [near Faylaq al-Sham’s checkpoint],” Enab Baladi quoted an eyewitness as saying.
A day earlier, HTS took over a checkpoint of Faylaq al-Sham in the town of Kafr Takharim, near Armanaz, by force. The step led to a protest by locals who rejected the terrorist group presence near their town.
Faylaq al-Sham is known for being Turkey’s key proxy in the governorate of Idlib and a part of the so-called National Front for Liberation (NFL) alliance. Over the last two years, the group has used its strong relations with Turkey to serve HTS’ interests in the region by providing it with military and political support.
Apparently, all of these services meant nothing for HTS, which is well-known for eliminating its allies. Earlier this year, the terrorist group eliminated one of its main allies, the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement.
Local observers believe that the terrorist group is working to expand its influence in northern Idlib, especially near the border with Turkey. Kafr Takharim and Armanaz are both located on a road that links Idlib’s city center with the Turkish border.
Faylaq al-Sham has not responded or even commented on these HTS actions so far. It’s expected that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham may continue carrying out similar actions in the next days. If this happens, the Turkish-backed group will likely surrender all of its weapons and withdraw to the Turkish-occupied areas in northern Aleppo, similar to what the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement had done.